S.F.'s Panic City on What It Takes to Be a Good Club DJ
At 26 years old, local DJ Panic City has already started his own label and developed a loyal following for his Blacklight Sessions and Panic City Live podcasts on iTunes. Beginning his career in local radio, Panic City's wide-ranging musical tastes are demonstrated in his many remixes of such disparate artists as Fleetwood Mac and Afrojack, the latter having garnered more than half a million views on YouTube. He has since begun working on his own original tracks, including his recent release, "Ancient Aliens," and continues to expand his URFRIENDS brand, a DJ partnership he shares with Miles Medina. Panic City recently spoke with All Shook Down on the rewards of DJing, his Blacklight music label, and where he got his name. He plays with Face Drugs this Friday, May 4, at The Parlor, and Saturday, May 5, at Eastside West.
What drew you to the art of DJing and helped you decide to make it a full-time career?
I used to be a huge hip-hop head in high school. I tried everything: art, rapping, and skateboarding. I was pretty good until I broke my ankle. After that, I didn't have the fearlessness I used to have, so I looked for a new hobby and bought turntables. I've always been obsessed with music, so it felt so natural. Long story short, I met a DJ by the name of Andrew B. and he offered to take me under his wing. He taught me all the secrets being a good club DJ. When he decided to make the move to Las Vegas, he left me with his weekly residency as a gift. The feeling of seeing "DJ Panic City" on a flier for the first time felt so rewarding. I've been chasing that feeling ever since.
Long story short, my boys DJ Andrew B. and Schmee really built my foundation; I've developed my game a lot with my dudes Miles Medina, Michael Mayeda, and The Les -- all talented dudes. They help me step up my game on the decks and in the production game. I'm lucky enough to spin in one of the dopest cities, San Francisco.
How did you come up with the moniker Panic City?
I never answer this because it's not a cool story at all. You really don't want to hear it. You can just call me Nic.
No, we actually really want to hear it.
So I guess you get to hear it first. So my real name is Nic and that's where "Panic" comes from. Back in the day when I used to do hood-rat things with my friends, I was the paranoid dude. They kept calling me that and it stuck. I used to participate in rap battles in high school, and that became my moniker. MySpace was big back then, and when I started producing my own songs, my account kept getting deleted because I guess there was a band with that name. So I decided I had to change it. I turned on the TV and "Making the Band" was on. Coincidentally, this rapper named "Choppa" had to change his name because someone owned it already, so he added "City" to his name. I took it as a sign. "Panic" became "Panic City" and it just stuck.
Tell us a little about your record label, Blacklights Records.
With the huge dance music explosion and my career heading in that direction, I wanted to create a platform for me and other talented individuals who don't get the spotlight they deserve... yet. One of those people is the guy who taught me how to produce, and a person who I've done countless remixes with, Megaman, aka Michael Mayeda. As an EDM producer, being on Beatport to me is kind of like having a verified Twitter account. I wanted to do that for us because I have so much confidence in our music. Our music has a good momentum and I founded Blacklights Records to keep it going strong.
What's the main difference in being a DJ versus a producer for you?
Easy. DJing is the art of playing music. Producers are the people who make the music. I'm trying to do both!
2011 was huge for you in terms of remixes. Which one are you most proud of?
Thanks! It definitely was. If I had to pick one, it would be my Drake "Take Care" remix. It wasn't exactly the hardest one to make, but it's the one people always come up to me talking about. It got a lot of buzz on the Internet, and with it being a solo project, plus finishing it the week of New Year's Eve, it holds a lot of meaning. 2011 was pivotal because I saw the direction I wanted to take my career.
What are you hoping to achieve with your label this year?
It's definitely about releasing original tracks. One of my songs, "Ancient Aliens," just got featured in a GoPro camera video, so I'm super stoked and motivated more than ever to take things to the next level. I love making remixes. [I'll] hopefully start doing officials this year, and keep on growing as a producer and person.